Recording Connection mentor Lucas Abend Talks Burning Man, Musical Expression & Getting Wowed by our Students.
As a music producer, studio co-founder, DJ and mentor, Lucas Abend of Studio 369 (Los Angeles, CA) is the consummate example of today’s music maker who’s part of a movement that’s constantly pushing the boundaries, setting new rules, breaking them and propelling the culture forward at lightning speed. Nevertheless, Lucas isn’t fed on hype. Everything he does emanates from his artistry and a belief in the importance of creative expression, not only of his own, but of those he chooses to mentor. We recently caught up with Lucas in-between sessions for a conversation on everything from Burning Man to Kilimanjaro, to writing in Ableton, to learning to make music not only as a career choice but as a path toward growth and fulfillment.
We’re glad we connected with you. Seems like you’ve been really busy lately.
“I performed at Burning Man. I did five different sets…One of the most incredible things I’ve seen in my entire life. It’s just this giant art exhibit, essentially, and there are 70,000 people there and it’s this whole city. It’s incredible, but it was really awesome to get to play one of the big stages there and play for hundreds of people and perform the music that I’ve been working on for them. So I made a bunch of house music for that.
I’m also finishing up an album with a band that I’m in, that’s kind of like a synthpop freak folk weird electronic music thing. I’ve also got some releases for Snugs that are coming up. And actually we’re just finishing up a fundraising campaign for the studio that I own here. So we’re excited about that.”
So what got you into music production in the first place?
“As a kid, I was into music, I took piano and I was doing musical theater. And even when I was around 12 years old, I was actually producing some really silly techno music with my friend on Acid Pro, like this super old DAW…Then also, my brother got into music production for his band in high school. So we went in together on a little Mbox, you know, the original Mbox. This was back in 2003 or something. We set up a little studio in my sister’s room. Then a lot of time went by…
Then in college, I got into DJing and DJing electronic music and all of that. I was actually studying abroad in Florence, Italy, going to school for art, and my roommate was making electronic music on Ableton and I was just DJing, and I remember thinking, ‘You know, I could make something like that, I could make something better than that.’ And so I downloaded Ableton and immediately fell in love with it, and started producing my own tracks to DJ at the college parties that I was playing. So I finished college while working on production the whole time…Then I graduated and I went to Africa for a month, and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with my dad. And once I did that, I was like, ‘I can do anything I put my mind to.’”
Have you had any students that really wowed you with how far they’ve come?
“Honestly, I’m amazed at how far pretty much all of my students have gotten. And it’s really rewarding to see people who started out, they never opened Ableton before, they’d never done it before, and here we are four months, five months later, they’re making whole songs, they’re making three songs a week, and it’s really rewarding to see that growth…
Paige Carmichael, and she’s been opening for acts like CRAY, I think it was, and she’s working for Global Dance Fest. I remember her music was very impressive. She really had that personal motivation to keep experimenting and keep trying things, and it worked. It’s been really great to see that.”
Although you definitely mentor students who are building careers for themselves, you’ve also taught a lot of active professionals who work in other fields.
“I’ve had doctors as students, I’ve had software engineers as students…they’re happy with their lives, they’re happy with being able to support themselves, but then giving them that extra tool of expression, it’s really amazing to see how it opens up their lives. You don’t have to pursue it as a career…Having the tools to be able to express yourself through music is a goal in itself. It’s so fulfilling. It is honestly, I know it sounds weird, but it’s even better than listening to music. If you like listening to music, whoa, making music is the next level.”
What’s your approach when it comes to teaching the students you work with?
“I feel like is the most important aspect of mentoring, is how to maintain the student’s motivation of their own work…When you’re right there trying to learn something, it’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. There’s not a soul out there who’s like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s easy, it’s done.’ Maybe there’s a couple people who are like that, but at the end of the day, they’re probably not going to succeed because it was so easy for them that they didn’t have the motivation to keep going. So part of it is having the challenge inspire you to keep working…that’s probably my most direct way that I’m mentoring, is helping the students find a creative workflow that works for them so that they have that motivation to spend 15 hours a week. That’s not easy. It takes some effort to spend that kind of time, but once they’re spending [it] you just see them get so much better. They improve so drastically that that’s kind of what makes it all worth it, is to see them improve and start to feel like, ‘Hey, actually at first when we first started I didn’t know what 4/4 meant!’”
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